It is much to Judge Ziegler's credit that she immediately -- well, as soon as the election was over -- accepted responsibility for her inaccurate "gut checks" regarding the rules of judicial conduct.
The now completed review of her case by 3 appellate court judges found that she violated those rules. The panel recommended a reprimand as the most appropriate disciplinary action.
The Capital Times, The Milwaukee Journal, and One Wisconsin Now do not think that's enough.
From The Capital Times:
The recommendation by a three-judge panel that Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler enjoy a meaningless reprimand for her gross and repeated ethical abuses is an insult to the people of Wisconsin and to the once good name of the state's highest court.And so on -- all clearly true.
The Judicial Conduct Panel acknowledged that Ziegler had failed to live up to the most basic ethical responsibility of a jurist when she regularly handled cases involving a West Bend bank on the board of which her husband serves. "Given her knowledge of her husband's relationships with the bank, red flags of danger were prominently flying," the panel admitted in its opinion. "Justice Ziegler did not see them."
Unfortunately, you get a sense that some of these critics haven't read the actual, rather tightly-reasoned, findings of the panel, especially with regard to the available punishments. One of the most interesting aspects of the case is found in the panel's justification for recommending a reprimand rather than something more drastic. It's this [click here for the link]:
Second, the supreme court has made it clear that punishment is not a permissible consideration. In re Judicial Disciplinary Proceedings against Crawford, 2001 WI 96, ¶38, 245 Wis. 2d 373, 392, 629 N.W.2d 1, 10 (“Discipline is not intended to punish the judge.”).So there you go. Now, whether this is fair or not is another question -- one the Supreme Court, and voters, and those who will appear before Judge Ziegler, will have to work through.
Here's what we do know: Judge Ziegler was willing to straddle the truth in order to get elected to the Supreme Court.
Is there reason to trust her future decisions when her past actions have set such a tone?
I guess we'll find out.